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Green Group Plans New Pollution Suit Against AEP

Green Group Plans New Pollution Suit Against AEP
NEW YORK - An environmental group said Monday it intends to file a federal lawsuit claiming that US power company American Electric Power Co. Inc. burned hazardous waste material at a Texas plant.

The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club and the Texas office of Public Citizen allege that the company mixed hazardous waste material it received from its oil brokers with its fuel oil and burned the mixture at its Knox Lee power plant near Longview Texas, violating federal pollution laws. It said these practices appear to stretch back more than 20 years.

AEP spokesman Pat Hemlepp said the company asserts that the materials consumed at the Knox Lee plant were fuels and were classified by suppliers as being fuels. He said the material was blended with fuel oil in order to cut the amount of sulfur dioxide emitted at the plant.

"The materials that we received at the plants and used as cutter or blend stock were fuels, and we will prove that in court, if necessary," Hemlepp said.

Ken Kramer, director of the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club, said the group plans to file the notice of intent to sue AEP today or tomorrow, and the actual lawsuit could be filed 60 days afterward at the earliest.

The environmental groups said they will ask a judge to order an end to all burning of wastes at AEP oil-fired units that are not specifically identified in the plant's permits, a system-wide audit to identify and disclose past violations, imposition of controls to prevent future illegal burning of hazardous waste, and penalties for past violations.

They said AEP faces possible fines of up to $27,500 a day for violations before March 15, 2004.

Earlier this month, the groups filed a federal lawsuit, demanding that AEP resolve air pollution problems at its Welsh coal-fired plant in Texas.

Both allegations are based on accusations made by Bill Wilson, an AEP air quality engineer who was fired in May 2004.

Wilson has said he was dismissed for calling attention to a wide range of air pollution problems at Welsh and two other plants, but AEP has said he was terminated "for reasons not related to his allegations."

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